"Number plate-based traffic fines are illegal"

Belgium's Court of Cassation has issued 4 rulings which have caused quite a stir. According to the judges, every ticket issued by police on the basis of a number plate, without actually stopping the driver, is illegal. It's mostly about speeding and also parking offences.

There is no problem when police officers stop the motorist in order to fine him or her. But in the case of so-called "flying" traffic fines, privacy issues are popping up when police have to identity the driver or the owner of the vehicle, using the license plate number.

In order to track down the driver, police have to consult the data bank where the number plates are linked to the people's personal data, but it turns out that they were never authorised to do so. The issue was taken to court by a couple of lawyers, including Henri Berkmoes, who won the case.

What now?

Will this ruling change a lot? Will anybody be able to go to court after receiving a fine?

First of all, in the concrete cases taken to court, a judge will have to decide whether the fine was imposed in an illegal way. The findings of the Court of Cassation are not binding, but are, of course, not to be ignored.

In other words, motorists violating traffic regulations can on the one hand take the matter to court, but will not necessarily escape punishment. "The latest rulings are not a pretext to push the gas pedal", Berkmoes said.

The State Secretary responsible for Privacy, Philippe De Backer, says regulations will have to be adapted. Police will soon receive the authorisation to consult the data bank, which would solve the problem for the future.